From an author praised by the Wall Street Journal for his “eye for a good story” comes an account of the Herbert Fuller tragedy of 1896, a tragedy that occurred on the high seas and involved the senseless slaughter of three of the twelve souls on board. Stunned by this act of random violence, and in sure knowledge that one or more of their own was the murderer, the living turn the vessel to shore, 750 miles distant.
In the nightmarish days and nights of suspense that follow, first one and then another of the remaining nine is seized by others as the culprit. Upon reaching port, however, all are under suspicion—until the man most likely to have committed the act is, for reasons having to do with race, exonerated and the man most likely to be innocent, prosecuted.
At the center of this gripping and gruesome story is the first mate, Thomas Bram, whose subsequent murder trials became as widely followed by the press and public as was the famous trial of Lizzie Borden just a few years before. Unlike the Borden case, remembered today in books, movies, and children’s rhymes, the Bram case was almost lost to the collective memory. Fortunately, C. Michael Hiam, in the manner of Erik Larson, now brings it to life.